Federal judge sides with Bossier City in dispute with UL Coleman

Artist rendering of Walker Place (Source: UL Coleman Companies).
Artist rendering of Walker Place (Source: UL Coleman Companies).

BOSSIER CITY, LA (KSLA) - A federal judge has sided with Bossier City in a legal dispute involving developer UL Coleman Companies (ULCC) over whether Bossier City violated a 2012 lawsuit settlement.

The settlement stems from a lawsuit the developer filed in 2008 after not being granted direct access to the Arthur Ray Teague Parkway for ULCC's planned mixed-use development.

The settlement or "Consent Decree and Cooperative Endeavor Agreement" required both parties to work together to build a park, pedestrian footbridge and redevelopment districts, among other things.

However, both parties disagreed vehemently about how all three projects were to be executed, causing ULCC to file a motion to "Enforce Consent Decree" accusing the city of failing to fulfill the settlement requirements.

Judge Maurice Hicks issued an order Monday denying ULCC's motion more than a year after hearing both parties argue their cases in late November 2015.

KSLA detailed the length of time it was taking the judge to make a decision in an investigative report less than a month before the judge handed down his ruling.

The court's ruling also denies the developer's request for attorney's fees and the costs incurred for land use planning experts.

Instead, Judge Hicks ordered ULCC to pay Bossier City's attorneys $3,790.20 in attorneys' fees.

The court ruled that the stay order on all action related to the redevelopment districts is now lifted. That means plans to make improvements and spruce up areas surrounding the planned Walker Place development can move forward.

Judge Hicks also granted Bossier City's motion to appoint a special master to oversee progress meetings relating to redevelopment and to resolve any disputes that may arise. The cost for the special master will be split equally between the parties.

In addition, Judge Hicks ruled ULCC's apology letter to Bossier City regarding accusations of leaks to the media satisfies the court's previous order of resolving all disputes.

The accusations stemmed from a story KSLA News 12 published July 3, outlining a recorded exchange in meeting minutes about what kind of lights to use at the Walker Place Park along Arthur Teague Parkway.

Two weeks after the story aired, the developer filed a motion with the KSLA story attached on July 17, 2015, alleging that "The story refers to minutes and other information from confidential, private progress meetings."

"The only way for KSLA to obtain all of this information would be from city officials or its consultant project manager Mike McSwain," ULCC's complaint claimed.

Contrary to what the motion alleged, city officials declined to give KSLA the more detailed meeting minutes on March 3, 2015, compared to the more vague minutes kept by the court and available to the public.

ULCC asked the court to sanction the city for the alleged leaks but later withdrew their motion. The apology letter was sent in September of 2015.

Judge Hicks listed his reasoning behind the ruling in great detail in this "Memorandum Ruling".

In it, Hicks states, "The Court hopes that the resolution of the issues presented in the instant motion will facilitate a better working relationship between all parties moving forward."

In the memorandum, the court notes there were no biddable documents relating to the Walker Place Development.

"The Court hopes that the Coleman plaintiffs will be diligent and expeditious in working on the development documents."

Additionally, the memorandum addresses its hopes for the city's efforts, "Likewise, the City is encouraged to move forward with its redevelopment efforts in a prompt manner such that the citizens of South Bossier receive the community benefits intended by the CEA."

Both parties participated in a telephone status conference Thursday morning to discuss the appointment of the special master for the redevelopment district projects.

Bossier City's attorney Neil Erwin declined to comment. KSLA has also reached out to one of ULCC's attorney's Jim McMichael for comment.

Click below to read meeting minutes from the November 2015 court hearing:

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